Govt moves to stop face-mask hoarding

Govt moves to stop face-mask hoarding

The government has decided to take control of face-mask production in an attempt to end hoarding and shortages.

Commerce permanent secretary Boonyarit Kalayanamit said on Tuesday that the Department of Internal Trade (DIT) will have 100% control of the manufacture of 36 million masks per month.

The DIT had required the factories to supply 45% of total production to the department's centre managing mask distribution and allowed the factories to distribute the rest.

However, it appears that a large number of face masks are being sold online at highly inflated prices, while stocks in shops have sold out.

The government is also saying that any individual, seller or juristic person who possesses more masks than allowed must report what they have to the DIT or face a prison term of up to seven years and a maximum fine of 140,000 baht under the Prices of Goods and Services Act, Mr Boonyarit said.

The measure is intended to prevent the hoarding of masks, which is partly to blame for the current shortage.

Mr Boonyarit said the DIT will determine caps on how many masks an individual, online and offline retailers, or juristic people can possess. The ceiling will differ for each group.

Public health and medical facilities will be exempt. The caps will be submitted to the Prices of Goods and Services Commission headed by Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit for approval as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Mr Jurin said production of masks is being ramped up to meet demand.

There are 11 factories producing masks nationwide. The factories are increasing production from 36 million masks a month or 1.2 million a day to 38 million a month or between 1.3 million and 1.4 million a day, according to Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit.

About 30% of masks (about 10 million) produced per month will go to the Public Health Ministry for further distribution to hospitals which form the front line in fighting against the spread of Covid-19.

Thammasat University Hospital yesterday criticised the government for failing to ensure an adequate supply of masks for medical personnel.

Hospital director Dr Pharuhat Tor-Udom said: "We have received many complaints from our staff there are not enough masks to go around.

"Some are complaining that they are scared of becoming infected by the virus," he said.

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